What is a Backpacking Stove? ( The answer with types and alternatives )

backpacking stoveWhen backpacking, you always need to have the proper gear to prepare the food that you take. Many times, dried foods won’t be enough, and you’ll need to heat food, or boil water.

So what is a backpack camping stove?

A backpacking stove is a compact stove that is lightweight and small. A backpacking stove is essential for backpacking trips since they save space and keep your pack weight down. There are several types of backpacking stoves, including, propane, denatured alcohol, and wood stoves.

Here’s what we will cover to make sure you get the right stove for you.

What Types of Backpacking Stoves Are There?

As with many other types of camping gear, there are many different types of backpacking stoves. The best one definitely narrows down to preference, but some have advantages over others.

  • Propane/Butane stoves are among the most common type of backpacking stove, as well as larger camp stoves. These stoves work similarly to a gas stove in your home. To light them, you will either use a lighter or match after opening the fuel valve, or there will be a built-in ignitor.

One main advantage of these stoves is that you have more temperature control in most models. Though some have one burner setting, others will be adjustable, so you can turn the heat up or down if needed when cooking.

  • Denatured alcohol stoves are another common option, although they are a bit “old-school” since many new technologies have come to the market. These stoves are a simple container-like stove that you pour the alcohol in and light with a match or lighter. There is no heat adjustment whatsoever on this type of stove.

One significant advantage of using this type of stove is that you can use denatured alcohol as a fire starter in wet conditions.

Although there is a significant advantage, there are also disadvantages. Denatured alcohol stoves do not work well in harsh winter conditions. Also, if your stove runs out of fuel, you must wait on the stove to cool off before adding more fuel.

  • Wood stoves are a great option in many cases, although if you’re camping in damp conditions, you may have some issues finding wood that is dry enough to burn.

There are many options when it comes to wood-burning backpacking stoves, and some are even considered ultra-light. These stoves are usually made of stainless steel with holes located around the stove. These holes provide excellent airflow for the fire to breath, as well as reducing the amount of smoke from the fire.

If you’re planning to camp in a dry area and looking for a lightweight stove, this may be an excellent option for the minimalist as there is no fuel required.

Are There Alternatives to Backpacking Stoves?

As with other camping gear, there is always an alternative option to gear that you would typically purchase. When it comes to backpacking stoves, there are a couple of options that you may want to consider.

If you’re camping in a dry area, or can at least find wood that is dry enough to burn, campfires are the best alternative to camp stoves. You can build a campfire in any way that you want, so constructing a fire that is suitable from cooking shouldn’t be an issue. Stick to the “cabin” formation when building a fire for cooking, as this will provide a stable surface for pots or pans.

You can also place large, flat rocks in a fire to make a cooking surface, although it may take a while to achieve a hot enough fire to do this. Cooking on a campfire is risky as you don’t know If you’ll be able to find enough wood, but if you can, it may be among the most efficient ways to cook while backpacking.

You can also make your own wood-burning backpacking stove, as well as making your own denatured alcohol stove. If you’re handy with tools, there are many tutorials online that teach you to make your own stove out of old food cans that you would usually recycle. These stoves are an excellent option, as they are affordable, lightweight, and you have the satisfaction of knowing that you made your gear.

What Are the Best Uses for Backpacking Stoves?

While the most obvious use for backpacking stoves is cooking, there are other things in which they will be useful. One has already been mentioned, and that is using denatured alcohol as a fire starter.

Another use for a backpacking stove, wood-burning stoves specifically, is warmth. Although you cannot do this inside of a shelter (tent/camping shelter), wood-burning camp stoves can be an alternative to campfires, especially if you only have access to very small pieces of wood.

Many popular campsites have been cleared of fallen wood by previous campers, which makes it difficult to start a fire. Wood burning stoves are contained, and make burning small pieces of wood much easier, and your fire will last much longer.

What is the Best Backpacking Stove, Pros & Cons

Propane/Butane Stoves


  • Many propane/butane stoves have built-in ignitors, which makes starting and stopping much easier than stoves that have to cool off.
  • Some options, such as the Jetboil, has a built-in pot, which allows you to cook your food in a self-contained unit. These stoves also pack nicely into the pot for storage and travel.
  • While some stoves don’t have this, many have adjustable burners. This is great if you’re cooking something that will stick easily, as you can turn the flame to a lower temperature.


  • While propane/butane stoves are the easiest to use, you always have the possibility of running out of fuel. If you take multiple containers of fuel, you will still have to pack out the empty ones.
  • Water can often damage or rust the components of these stoves, so if you’re camping in very wet conditions, you may want to consider an alternative.

Denatured Alcohol Stoves


  • Denatured alcohol stoves can be one of the lightest options, as it is merely a container with holes made to put the denatured alcohol in.
  • In wet conditions, you don’t have any rusting components to worry about, and you don’t have to worry about finding dry wood.
  • Denatured alcohol is inexpensive and widely available. It’s clean, and it burns quietly.
  • You can make your own stove from old soda cans.


  • Denatured alcohol stoves perform poorly in harsh winter conditions, and it is recommended not to try and use them in freezing temperatures.
  • The flame of denatured alcohol is often hard to see, so you must take extra caution not to get burned.

Wood Burning Stoves


  • Wood burning stoves are the eco-friendliest stove option aside from fire itself.
  • You don’t have to purchase any fuel for a wood-burning stove. Simply find sticks and twigs around your campsite, and you’re good to go!
  • Wood burning stoves are the lightest option available, especially if you make your own stove from old cans.


  • If you’re in a very wet area, it may be difficult to find wood that is dry enough to burn. Sometimes it helps to take dryer lint or something similar to aid in getting the fire started.
  • Depending on the type of wood that you use, sometimes wood-burning stoves will take longer to boil water than other stoves will. Also, if you let the fire go out before you’re done cooking, it may take more time to get the fire started.

Backpacking Stove Safety

As always, safety is the number one priority when camping. No matter what type of stove you’re using, whether an alcohol stove or an open fire, it is always important to pay close attention to what you’re doing to avoid fires and burns.

  • Always be sure when using a propane/butane stove that the canister is sealed with no leaks. The fuel in this canister has a strong odor and will be easy to tell if it’s leaking.
  • Always be sure to tighten your stove to the canister properly before using, as this can cause leaks, and in rare cases, fires.
  • When using a wood stove or alcohol stove, always be sure to let the stove properly cool after use before handling. These stoves are metal and can retain their heat for over an hour, depending on how thick the stove material is.
  • If your alcohol stove runs out of fuel before you’re done cooking, be sure to wait for the stove to cool before adding fuel. This alcohol ignites quickly and could be dangerous if you add fuel while the stove is still hot.
  • No matter what type of stove you’re using, always be sure that there isn’t anything flammable close to the stove. This is especially important with wood stoves, as there may be embers or coals that come out and land on the ground around the stove.

Choosing a backpacking stove depends on preference, what type of fuel is available, and how much weight you’re willing to carry. There are many options available for any style of stove. Wood burning, denatured alcohol, and propane/butane are all common types of stoves and are available from a wide variety of manufacturers. Propane/butane stoves are the easiest, denatured alcohol is the simplest, and wood-burning is the eco-frie.

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Rickie Arms

Hi, I'm Rickie Arms, owner of Glampingorcamping.com. I am so invested in writing the best and most informative articles for you that I went out and bought a travel trailer just so I could write about it for you. I spend just about all of my off time both camping and glamping so I can share everything I have learned and will learn with you. I have spent my whole life camping and over the last 10 years, I have spent a large amount of time checking out glamping experiences with my wife and kids as well. Thank you for coming by and we hope to see you back here getting great information in the future. Rick Arms-

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